Ronda ready for blast-off
96 riders tackle gruelling 15-leg bikathon tomorrowBy June Navarro
Philippine Daily Inquirer
GENERAL SANTOS CITY—The 2012 LBC Ronda Pilipinas, local cycling’s version of the Tour de France, hits the road tomorrow with a team time trial serving as a warm-up of sorts for the best 96 riders of the land.
Three-time Tour champion Santy Barnachea, also last year’s winner, leads the cast of contenders along with climbers Joel Calderon, George Oconer, Baler Ravina, Irish Valenzuela, Lloyd Reynante, Merculio Ramos and track specialist Alfie Catalan.
Over P7.5 million in cash prizes are at stake in the overall individual and team categories and in each stage of the 15-leg, 18-day bikathon. Special category winners—the sprint king and king of the mountain—will also win cash bonuses.
“We are truly grateful for the support that Ronda Pilipinas has given us since our inaugural race last year,” said LBC Express, Inc. president Fernando Araneta.
Flagging off with a team time trial in Sarangani designed to determine the red jersey holder in the race proper the next day, Ronda will cover 2,080.5 kilometers and pass through 32 towns and cities across the nation before ending in a grand finish on Roxas Boulevard on June 10.
“We are fully committed to elevate the state of Philippine cycling by harnessing the spirit of competition,” said Araneta.
LPGMA-American Vinyl is again a heavy favorite in the team race, having captured most of the major Tours in the country for the past four years.
Challenging them this time are Team Road Bike, V-Mobile/Nueva Ecija, Navy and the Philippine Under-23 squad.
Valenzuela, a high-altitude specialist, will join forces with Rudy Roque, Ronnel Hualda and Cris Joven in hopes of extending the reign of the multiawarded cycling club co-owned by LPGMA party-list Rep. Arnel Ty and Eric Sy.
Tomorrow’s introductory TTT will take the 16 teams on a 20.6 km route from the Sarangani provincial capitol and back. Teams will be flagged off in five-minute intervals.
Stage 1 will be a 183.3 km race from General Santos City to Kiamba and back. Stage 2 will tackle the General Santos-Davao City route, Stage 3 is a ride from Tagum to Butuan and Stage 4 will begin in Butuan and end in Surigao.
Riders will then negotiate roads in the Eastern part of the Visayas from Ormoc city to Tacloban City in Leyte (Stage 5) and Tacloban to Calbayog, Samar (Stage 6).
Another ferry ride will take the cyclists to the Bicol region through the Legaspi to Naga (Stage 7) and Daet to Lucena (Stage 8) routes.
From Lucena, Ronda will travel to Antipolo City (Stage 9) and then from San Fernando, Pampanga, to Cabanatuan (Stage 10).
Stage 11 is a flat race from Cabanatuan to Lingayen, Pangasinan, the kick-off point of the only mountain stage going to Baguio City (Stage 12) before the time trial in the summer capital the following day (Stage 13).
San Fernando, La Union, will host the start of Stage 14 with the riders finishing up in Tarlac City, the penultimate leg to the Valenzuela-Manila “victory ride.”